Daimler, BMW, and Audi bringing EVs to production level, Musk smokes pot and shares wide-ranging opinions during podcast

Premier EVs rolling out:  German automakers are now stepping up to their commitment made two years ago at the Paris Motor Show to become Tesla-competitive and produce production-level premier electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz unveiled the Mercedes EQC all-electric SUV on Tuesday, and it will be Daimler’s first production model under the company’s electric EQ sub-brand. BMW next week will be flying the autonomous iNEXT electric crossover in a Boeing 777 Freighter to press events in Munich, New York, San Francisco, and Beijing. On Monday, Volkswagen’s Audi began mass production of the Audi e-tron, the brand’s first all-electric SUV with longer range. Audi will unveil the battery electric SUV at a world premiere in San Francisco on Sept. 17. It’s a good time to roll out these high-performance, premier EVs as Tesla and its leader, Elon Musk, face a series of challenges. Production problems for the high-volume Model 3 continue, as do controversial moments with Musk — made more so last night during a podcast (see below). Editor’s note: See my Oilprice link for more articles on EVs and energy trends.

Musk enjoys podcast:  Tesla CEO Elon Musk puffed on a marijuana joint, lit up a flamethrower, and showed off a Samurai sword during a Thursday night interview with podcast host Joe Rogan. It’s been a tumultuous month for Musk, attempting to take the electric carmaker private and releasing a series of controversial tweets that sent Tesla stock prices on a roller coaster. He appeared to be more at ease during the casual interview wearing his Occupy Mars t-shirt and commenting on the future of artificial intelligence. As for interesting comments: manufacturing electric cars is “very difficult,” getting governments to regulate artificial intelligence isn’t going anywhere, and his underground tunnel in Los Angeles isn’t going forward, “Mostly because of paperwork.” While marijuana is legal in California, where the interview took place, Musk’s phone started getting hit with messages. “I’m getting text messages from friends saying, ‘What the hell are you doing smoking weed?'” he said. Musk explained that he’s “not a regular smoker of weed” because he “doesn’t find it’s very good for productivity. It’s like a cup of coffee in reverse,” he said. Using marijuana, along with taking Ambien to deal with his sleeping problem, has been of concern among Tesla shareholders and board members since a New York Times interview last month. As for flying cars, Musk doesn’t see the point of investing in it as a practical mode of transportation. “If you get one of those toy drones and imagine it’s 1,000 times heavier — that’s not going to make your neighbors happy,” Musk said. “If you want a flying car, just put wheels on a helicopter.”

Bolt going global:  The Chevrolet Bolt is getting ready to roll out to new markets. Pam Fletcher, vice president of the automaker’s global electric vehicle programs, told an audience at Citi’s 2018 Global Technology Conference that the Bolt EV electric car will ship out to new markets around the globe due to unforeseen demand. “We see demand increasing in markets we’re already in and we’ve seen new markets around the globe that we didn’t originally plan to have the Bolt in asking for it,” she said. “And so, we’ll be announcing some of these additional markets, here, in the not-so-distant future.”

California bill supporting clean trucks:  Sixty companies are urging California Governor Brown to sign a bill that will encourage more big rigs powered by clean fuels to operate on California highways and roads. Assembly Bill 2061 (D-Frazier) will speed the improvement of air quality in disadvantaged communities that are often heavily impacted by polluting diesel trucks weight limit by a small percentage. Current law restricts the gross vehicle weight of trucks to 80,000 pounds. Because the energy storage and fuel delivery systems for zero emission (ZE) and near-zero (NZE) vehicles are presently heavier than diesel tanks, the restriction means that fleet operators who use cleaner technologies must carry smaller payloads, which creates a significant disincentive. AB 2061 would increase the weight limit for ZE and NZE trucks to 82,000 pounds and thereby improve the business case for cleaner trucks. The bill is co-sponsored by CALSTART, the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, and San Diego County Disposal Association.

National Drive Electric Week:  National Drive Electric Week will be starting tomorrow at nationwide EV ride and drives. Running Sept. 8-16, the nationwide celebration is geared toward heightening awareness of the widespread availability of plug-in vehicles and the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric cars, trucks, motorcycles, and more. They are fun to drive, are less expensive and more convenient to fuel than gasoline vehicles, are better for the environment, promote local jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, according the event organizers. Those interested in buying or leasing an EV can go to one of the events and talk to owners who have successfully done so.

DOE grants:  The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of 42 projects totaling $80 million to support advanced vehicle technologies that can enable more affordable mobility, strengthen domestic energy security, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of critical materials, and enhance the country’s economic growth. Batteries and electrification projects won $31.9 million in funding. These research projects will develop technologies to recharge multiple electric vehicles quickly and at very high “extreme” power levels; software, controls, and hardware to provide physical and cybersecurity protection of electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The projects will also work to develop cathode materials for next generation electric vehicle batteries that eliminate or significantly reduce the use of cobalt, an expensive and foreign-sourced critical material.

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